Original Research

Critical elements in defining work-based identity in a post-apartheid South Africa

Sandra Lloyd, Gert Roodt, Aletta Odendaal
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 37, No 1 | a894 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v37i1.894 | © 2011 Sandra Lloyd, Gert Roodt, Aletta Odendaal | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 February 2010 | Published: 04 August 2011

About the author(s)

Sandra Lloyd, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Gert Roodt, Faculty of Management, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Aletta Odendaal, University of Johannesburg, South Africa


Orientation: The main focus of the study was to answer the question: ‘Who am I at work?’ in a post-apartheid South African organisation.

Research purpose: The aim of the specific research questions was to determine which life sphere and life role elements, and which work-based identity facets were significant in forming work-based identity.

Motivation for the study: The findings of the study will enable the formulation of an integrative definition of work-based identity applicable to the South African context.

Research design, approach and method: Qualitative data was collected by means of unstructured interviews with 29 employees representing a range of job titles, levels and demographics in a large South African manufacturing company. A grounded theory approach (open and axial coding) was used to analyse the data.

Main findings: Distinctive individual self-definitions and a number of common themes integrating social and personal identity perspectives emerged from the data. These themes provided a sound basis for the proposed integrative model to define work-based identity.

Practical/managerial implications: The findings of this research will assist human resource practitioners to develop training interventions and management strategies for the potential enhancement of work-based identities. This will result in a more engaged and harmonised workforce.

Contribution/value-add: This was the first study of its kind to identify and delineate significant work-based identity elements for the formation of a work-based identity within a South African work context.


Work-based identity; elements; definition; qualitative research design; interpretivist approach; multiple case study; manufacturing company; South African context


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